PHIL 412 B: Ethical Theory

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
Location: 
* *
SLN: 
20196
Joint Sections: 
B H 402 B, B H 502 A
Instructor:
Nancy S. Jecker

Syllabus Description:

For the complete syllabus (pdf format), including the daily schedule, click here

Instructor: Professor Nancy S. Jecker

Website: UW Faculty Website
Email: nsjecker@uw.edu
Virtual Office Hours: By apt (email to schedule)

*This is a 100% remote learning environment. All instruction is online.   

Learning GoalsBy the end of the quarter you will be able to:
 (1) distinguish normative and non-normative approaches to ethics; (2) identify teleological and deontological ethical theories; (3) demonstrate knowledge of normative ethical theories, including Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, and perfectionism; (4) demonstrate knowledge of metaethical theories, including relativism, subjectivism, objectivism, absolutism, nihilism, and skepticism; (5) deploy philosophical methods of analysis and argument; (6) display awareness of social, cultural and historical assumptions embedded in ethical analyses; (7) appeal to ethical theories and principles to justify alternative viewpoints; (8) serve as peer reviewers for colleagues (graduate students); (9) prepare a research paper (graduate students).

Course Description: This course introduces you to some of the most influential ethical theories to date and, with a critical eye, studies the source and ground of their influence. Readings will be from historically prominent Western philosophers, such as Bentham, Mill, Nietzsche, and Kant, as well as from contemporary scholars. Cross-cultural perspectives are incorporated throughout, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia.

Course Requirements:

Undergraduate Student Requirements apply to students who have not completed a bachelor's degree.

  • Group Projects (25 points each, 100 total points, 25% of course grade)
  • Philosophical Reflections (10 points each, 100 total points, 25% of course grade)
  • Exams (100 points each, 200 total points, 50% of course grade)

Graduate Student Requirements apply to students who have completed a bachelor's degree

  • Group Project: (25 points each, 100 total points, 20% of course grade)
  • Philosophical Reflections: (10 points each, 100 total points, 20% of course grade)
  • Exams: (100 points each, 200 total points, 40% of course grade)
  • Graduate Student Research Paper (100 points total, 20% of course grade)

Group Projects are peer learning activities the invite you to team up with classmates to debate a contemporary ethical problem, develop arguments, prepare slides, & present to the class live on Zoom.

Philosophical Reflections are journaling activities that invite you to formulate your own ethical view in a 250-500 word posting. Full credit for reasonable quality and no credit for unsatisfactory work.

Exams test mastery of material using a combination of multiple choice & essay. Review sheets will be posted online and the class prior to the exam will include a discussion board review session.

Graduate Student Papers are 8-10-page research papers dealing in more depth with a topic discussed in class. Students must submit a proposal to the instructor for approval and a draft paper to colleagues for structured peer review prior to submitting the final paper.

POLICIES: 
Please review:
UW, School of Medicine, and Department of Bioethics Policies 
Department of Bioethics & Humanities, Grading Policy
Instructor, Missed Class Policy

Please note: The department advises students who might need Disability Resources for Students (DRS) services to register with DRS at the beginning of the quarter. The Department's policy is that all students in a class will be held to the same class policy absent a written accommodation directive from DRS.

Class Schedule: Prior to joining a live zoom meeting or submitting an assignment, complete all assigned electronic materials (available at the "E-Materials" link on the home page of the course website).

I. METAETHICS

A. Introduction

October 1       
Live Zoom Meeting: 2:30-4:20 PM <https://washington.zoom.us/j/8503204846>,  Meeting ID: 8503204846
Recorded Lecture: Introduction to Ethics & the Study of Ethics

B. Ethical Relativism

October 6       
Recorded Lecture: Ethical Relativism
Readings: Benedict, "A Defense of Ethical Relativism;" Rachels, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism” (pp. 1-5, Sections 2.1-2.3)
Canvas Assignment: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION 1 DUE

October 8       
Readings: Rachels, "The Challenge of Cultural Relativism” (pp. 5-12, Sections 2.4-2.7);

Williams, “Vulgar Relativism;” Midgley, "Trying Out One's Sword"

October 13     
Live Zoom Meeting: 2:30-4:20 PM, <https://washington.zoom.us/j/8503204846>,
Meeting ID: 8503204846
Streaming Media: Countering Myths about FGM/C (14 min)
Readings: WHO, “Female Genital Mutilation: Key Facts;” Recommended: Duivenbode,        “Female Genital Cutting and the Cultural Boundaries of Medical Practice”
Canvas Assignment: GROUP PROJECT #1: The Practice of FGM/C in the U.S. (ZOOM)
Canvas Assignment: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION 2 DUE
PAPER PROPOSALS DUE (Graduate Students Only)

II. NORMATIVE ETHICS

Teleological Theories

A. Utilitarianism

October 15     
Recorded Lecture: Jeremy Bentham
Readings: Bentham, "The Principle of Utility;" Recommended: Streaming Media: “WirelessPhilosophy: Consequentialism”

October 20     
Recorded Lecture: John Stuart Mill
Readings: Mill, Utilitarianism, chapters I-IV (pp. 1-61); Recommended: Darwall, “Utilitarianism”
Canvas Assignment: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION 3 DUE

October 22     
Recorded Lecture: Contemporary Critiques of Utilitarianism
Readings: Nielsen, "Against Moral Conservatism” Mackie, “The Ethics of Fantasy”
Canvas Assignment: DRAFT PAPERS FOR PEER REVIEW DUE (Graduate Students)

October 27     
Live Zoom Meeting: 2:30-4:20 PM, <https://washington.zoom.us/j/8503204846>,
Meeting ID: 8503204846
Readings: Ross, Prisoners as Living Donors: A Vulnerabilities Analysis; Recommended: Barry, “Cultural Taboos Surrounding Organ Donation”
Canvas Assignment: GROUP PROJECT #2: The Organ Donor (ZOOM)
Canvas Assignment: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION 4 DUE            

B. Perfectionism

October 29     
Recorded Lecture: Nietzsche’s Ubermensch
Readings: Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, pp. 406-408; The Antichrist, pp. 409; Birth of Tragedy; Homer's Contest; The Will to Power
Assignment: COMPLETED PEER REVIEW DUE (Graduate Students Only)

November 3    
Readings: Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, pp. 382-399; Genealogy of Morals, pp. 399-405
Canvas Assignment: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION 5 DUE

November 5    
Recorded Lecture: Perfectionism, Contemporary Perspectives
Readings: Nagel, Equality and Partiality, chapters 12-13 (pp. 87-102); Recommended: Parfit, “Overpopulation and the Quality of Life”
Examination 1 Review Sheet Available Online

November 10   Exam 1 Review
Canvas Assignment: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION 6 DUE

November 12  
Exam 1 Available (12:01 AM)
Canvas Assignment: EXAM 1 DUE (11:59 PM)

Deontological Theories

A.  Kantian Ethics

November 17  
Live Zoom Meeting: 2:30-4:20 PM, <https://washington.zoom.us/j/8503204846>,
Meeting ID: 8503204846
Readings: Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Preface; O’Kelly, “The Impact of Culture & Religion on Truth Telling at the End of Life”
Canvas Assignment: GROUP PROJECT #3: Asian & Muslim Approaches to Truth Telling (ZOOM)
Canvas Assignment: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION 7 DUE

November 19  
Recorded Lecture: Kantian Ethics: Deontology, Good Will, Categorical Imperative
Readings: Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, ch 1-selection ch 2 (pp. 5-26); Recommended: Behrens, “A Critique of the Principle of Autonomy Grounded in African Thought”

November 24  
Readings:  Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, selection ch. 2 (pp. 26-40); Feldman, "On Treating People as Ends-In-Themselves"  
Canvas Assignment: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION 8 DUE

November 26  
Recorded Lecture: Contemporary Critiques of Kantian Ethics
Readings: Holmes, "Kantianism;” Taylor, "Compassion;" Held, “Feminist Ethical Theory;” Recommended: Wong, “Ren and Li as Relational Values”

B. Ross’s Ethics

November 26   Thanksgiving (UW Holiday)                     

December 1    
Recorded Lecture: Ross’s Theory of Prima Facie Duties
Readings: Ross, “What Makes Acts Right?”
Examination 2 Review Sheet Available Online
Canvas Assignment: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION 9 DUE

December 3    
Live Zoom Meeting: 2:30-4:20 PM, <https://washington.zoom.us/j/8503204846>, Meeting ID: 8503204846
Readings: Shue, “Torture;” Amnesty International, No End in Sight: Torture & Forced Confessions in China
Canvas Assignment: GROUP PROJECT #4: Waterboarding (ZOOM)
Canvas Assignment: PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION 10 DUE
Canvas Assignment: EXAM 2 REVIEW SESSION

December 8    
Exam 2 Available (12:01 AM)
Canvas Assignment: EXAM 2 DUE (11:59 PM)

December 10   Canvas Assignment: GRADUATE STUDENT PAPERS DUE

Catalog Description: 
Studies the major normative ethical theories, including both teleological and deontological approaches. Emphasizes moral philosophy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as contemporary commentary. Offered: jointly with B H 402.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Credits: 
5.0
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
June 28, 2020 - 9:15pm